A look back at 2015

What better way to start the year and a new blog by looking back at memorable pieces from 2015. These are only a small selection of work out of Asia las year.

The year started with further coverage of the tragic Air Asia flight QZ8501 crash. The Airbus A320-200 was heading to Singapore from the Indonesian island of Java when it disappeared in bad weather. The graphics below formed part of our coverage as the story developed.


A projection by Indonesia's national search and rescue agency shows how the debris would have spread east. We turned the data into a simple gif.

This search map (below) was updated daily.


Nepal quake

Another disaster struck in April when a powerful magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, killing thousands of people. The graphics below were created as the story developed.

Lang tang Valley was one of worst affected areas. Langtang Lirung, the 7,234-metre (23,734 feet) mountain looming over the valley, shed a gigantic slice that fell hundreds of feet, launching a massive torrent of air, snow, ice and rock upon the village and its guesthouses, brimming with trekkers at the start of the climbing season.

Dozens of other landslides were reported across Nepal's mountainous border region after the April 25 earthquake. The map below locates all of the detected incidents.


Large areas were left at high risk of further landslides in the coming weeks and months. An analysis by the University of Michigan identified which areas are most vulnerable. This was turned into the map below.

A number of aftershocks rocked the area in the days and weeks that followed, including a 7.3 magnitude tremor. Naturally, a lot of comparisons were drawn with the initial earthquake, but how do the strength of these quakes really compare? We decided to make this chart to compare the actual energy released.
Click image to launch

Korean MERS outbreak

After returning from a trip to the Middle East, a 68-year-old South Korean man developed a cough and fever. He visited four health facilities seeking treatment and inadvertently triggered the biggest outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outside of Saudi Arabia. The deadly outbreak infected 186 people, killing 36 and at its peak, put 1,700 in quarantine.

The diagram below was made by piecing together statements from the Korean Ministry of Health as the initial outbreak spread. The case count and age charts were updated daily.


Southeast Asian haze

Seasonal fires caused by slash-and-burn practices on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo sent a thick haze across a swathe of Southeast Asia and pushed air quality to unhealthy levels during September and October. Below are some of the graphics published as the story progressed.

The map below shows the location of fires that have a high confidence of being related to forest-clearing from September 7-17.

Fires are an annual problem during the dry season, when forests in Indonesia are slashed and burned to clear the land for agriculture. The chart below shows daily fires observed throughout Indonesia by NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites.

Although it is illegal for companies in Indonesia to start fires, a lot of fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan occur within the pulp, palm oil or logging concessions that cover much of the land. The map below shows how much of the land is covered with these concessions.

Fires on peat are of particular concern because they can be difficult to extinguish due to the depth and organic density of the soil. Some can burn for months or even years.
Between the 7th and 17th of September, 60 percent of the fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan were on carbon-rich peatlands. The fires are set to burn off the vegetation but also burn roots and the peat soil itself. The maps below show the depth of peat and how many fires burned in those areas.


Hanergy's $19 billion wipeout

Not long after Hanergy Thin Film Power Group began its annual shareholder meeting at a plush Hong Kong hotel, the Chinese solar company's shares went into free fall. The company lost half its market value in just 24 minutes.
Once the meeting was under way, several massive sell orders involving millions of shares overwhelmed the market, according to an analysis of Thomson Reuters trade log data. The chart below shows every trade of Hanergy stock that morning. Circle size represents the number of shares in each trade.

Before the stock price plunge, Hanergy's value had climbed five-fold since September, helped by investment inflows from mainland China to Hong Kong via a landmark link-up with the Shanghai stock exchange.

F1 pitstop strategy

And finally, I thought this was a nice example of a sports chart. In Formula One, pitstop strategy plays a very important role when trying to finish ahead of your competitors. Changing tyres increases performance, but pulling in to make this happen takes time. Finding the balance is key. This chart shows a battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel during the Spanish grand prix.

Check back soon for some more examples.